Growing up, being a Christian meant following a list of rules as long as my arm, feeling terrified to make a wrong move in case God turned away from me, and all of this was wrapped in a thick layer of judgements about others and myself. That way of living seems so foreign now. It's like remembering a childhood trip that you weren't particularly fond of. In many ways, I find it difficult to believe I ever worried about any of that.
I know for a fact that my kids won't waste time in that religious trap of trying to please God and others. It's not about that. We are all broken people, with pain and hurt in our lives, and I now believe it's as simple as Love God. Love others. The rest is just window dressing, and should never be used as a stick to beat ourselves or others with.
Faith is simple. I love God and know I am loved by him. I don't see him as an angry being waving a stick anymore. That childhood (and early adulthood) version is gone, pushed out of my mind by a truth that is easier to hold on to. He is good, loving and accepting, and wants relationship with me, even though I am a flawed individual. He understands and accepts that.
How else to explain all of the horrible things that happen in the world? I believe God is with us, at every moment, and that all of the things we have put on him simply aren't there. He is love, and forgiveness, and hope. Mercy and grace are his chief platforms. The list of "do's and don't's" are immaterial. When I listen to the still, small voice of God, I make better decisions than when I don't, but God will still walk beside me and love me, regardless of what I do or don't do.
Loving others is where it gets a bit trickier. It shows me a lot about myself when I love those who hurt me. Relationships are complicated and painful, but I try not to quit on them unless there are no other options. Human relationships are a picture of my relationship with God. They evolve and change throughout life, and I'm thrilled to see so much growth in my relationship with God, particularly in these last few years.
I'm grateful to my community of faith for helping me on this road. I believe it's not nearly as complicated as we've made it out to be. I love my pastor for boiling it all down to Love God, Love others and encouraging us to live honest, real lives with God and stop muddying up the waters with the judgements and condemnations that drove so much of my younger life. The freedom and joy I feel now is extraordinary. I could never go back. I want to move forward in this loving, supportive relationship and grow with God in ways I couldn't conceive of before now.